In a huge victory for campaigners and the bereaved families of the Grenfell Tower blaze, the government has confirmed that a panel of experts will sit alongside the judge in the inquiry.
The news comes after months of lobbying by survivors of the North Kensington fire, which killed 71 people 11 months ago.
Grenfell survivors and bereaved families have been for months voicing their concern that it the inquiry panel isn’t reflective of the very community most devastated by the blaze.
Clarrie Mendy, from the campaign group Humanity for Grenfell, said she feels confident that a meeting bereaved families had with the Prime Minister on Thursday had an impact on the government’s decision.
“I know that woman [Theresa May] had a sleepless night,” Mendy, who lost two relatives in the fire, said. “I feel great. It’s not the full monty because they’re saying it’s for the second half [of the inquiry], but I do understand.
“I don’t want a bogeyman who hasn’t been scrutinised coming into the first phase. It’s a week away and we don’t want them just to fill the seat.”
The diverse panel will join Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick for phase two of his investigation, which is due to start hearing formal evidence later this month.
Adel Chaoui, who lost four relatives in the fire, was one of the people behind a petition calling for new panel members to be added, which was signed by 156,000 people.
Chaoui, from the campaign group Grenfell United, thanked the Prime Minister and said the group was “relieved” that the step had been taken, but added that survivors should not have had to campaign for it.
He said: “This panel means that the inquiry will have the expertise it needs to get to the truth of why our community was not listened to when we raised concerns, why such a dangerous refurbishment could be allowed to go ahead and all the issues that led up to that awful night.
“These are the questions that need to be answered to make sure this never happens again.”
May spoke with a group of people affected by the fire tragedy at Parliament on Thursday evening.
Bereaved families said they wanted “actions, not words” following the meeting, which lasted over an hour and was also attended by the Policing Minister, Nick Hurd.
The Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad said Friday’s announcement was a “welcome step forward”, but echoed Chaoui in criticising the government for not acting sooner to meet the bereaved families’ demands.
The announcement comes ahead of Monday’s Commons debate on the Grenfell fire, as questions continue to swirl over how refurbishment work on the building contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has launched its own inquiry into the fire, said: “To understand the full reasons behind the tragedy of Grenfell it is important the inquiry appreciates the social and cultural aspects of the community where it happened.
“The Prime Minister has listened to the calls from the families of victims and survivors, and bringing in this experience is a welcome move.”
Sir Martin is heading the investigation into the blaze, which killed 71 people, supported by a legal team, civil servants and three assessors to advise on certain matters.
The petition called for individuals from a wide range of backgrounds to sit alongside him.